June 6, 2007

First Impressions of the Macbook Pro

I call this: computers,mac — Posted by KP @ 9:21 am

UPDATE: Check out the Mac topic for more recent posts about my new Macbook Pro.

I’m not going to call this a “review,” since I think it should take more than a few hours of use to come up with a real opinion, but here are my thoughts about my new purchase:

First of all, after staying up until 4AM last night to make sure everything was transferred over so that I could begin using it as my primary computer at rehearsal today, my first reaction is that it looks just like my Powerbook. I haven’t installed the haxie to make the dock black yet, and I’m not sure if I want to. I’m trying not to install anything that screws with the system too much, so if any bad behavior shows up I can rule out that sort of thing.

Other than that, though, there are few things to remind me that I’m using a different computer. I’ve never been a fan of the wide trackpads that have always been on the 17″ Powerbooks, and also the 15″ Macbook Pros. It’s mostly a matter of not being used to it, but that huge button just feels harder to press. I’m also having a hard time adjusting to the tracking speed (more the acceleration, as I’m used to making it faster with SideTrack — again, I don’t want to mess with haxies just yet). Interestingly, when I went to the Sidetrack site to make that link, I saw a notice saying it’s not yet compatible with Macbook Pros made after October 2006. So there. There’s a post saying they’re working on it, but since the last update was in November 06, I fear it may not be in development anymore. I mainly used Sidetrack on the Powerbook because it has no built-in scrolling feature. Now that Apple has introduced the two-finger scroll it’s less important, but it also does some other cool stuff, like letting you assign extra mouse buttons to things like tapping the corners of the trackpad. It also allows greater control over pointer speed and acceleration.

Two-finger scrolling has always felt a little weird to me, but once I figured out that I have a tendency to put my fingers too close together, that helped. I also needed to uncheck the option in System Prefs to ignore accidental trackpad input. My experience has always been that it ignores more good input than bad. The trackpad itself has more friction than I’m used to, but I’m sure that’s just because it’s new.

My keyboard lights come on by themselves quite alot. Sometimes my hand passes over the light sensor in a slightly shadowy but flourescent-lit room, and they come on for a couple seconds. I don’t really want to turn off the sensor, but I may.

OK, so this new exciting screen. It’s bright. It’s pretty. I can’t say that there’s anything about it that would make me say “OMG I’m looking at a kind of screen I’ve never seen before!” even though that’s the case. Most new computers, certainly new Macs, have a brighter, prettier, and higher-resolution screen than my Powerbook, so I tend to have the same reaction to all of them. It definitely is a nice bright white, the kind of light you get from an LED. The backlighting looks pretty even. The side-angle viewing seems good to me. Here’s the inevitable side-by-side-with-another-computer-in-the-dark shot:

That’s the MBP on the right, of course. The other computer is a Rev. A 15″ Albook from Sept. 2003. Not exactly a current comparison, but there it is. Both on maximum brightness. It’s bright. I can’t imagine ever needing it to be brighter. The last couple clicks on the brightness scale are painful. There’s a moment, I think just when it starts up, where it kicks to full brightness for just a second before going to whatever level it’s set at, and it’s like a flashbulb going off. You’d only ever need something this bright in direct sunlight, I think. I don’t spend much time outdoors, but I’ll see if I can try it soon.

The two most important things about the screen to me:
1. No bad pixels (phew!)
2. The grainy/sparkly defect from the previous MBPs is gone. Sucks for anyone who has one, but I’m glad at least future models won’t come with it.

Santa Rosa
. Uh, OK. It’s fast. Of course it’s fast, it’s sitting next to a freakin’ 1.25GHz G4, and it has twice as much RAM. What am I supposed to say? I’ll leave it to someone else to post benchmarks and comment on performance relative to something more modern. Of course I’m very happy with the speed improvement. And the wireless seems faster, both for internet and file transfers, even though I’m using a wireless-g router. Not sure if that’s because the bottleneck was actually with my processor and/or RAM on the old computer. Anyway, better wireless makes me happy. PC users make fun of me too much when they can get a signal on a base station and I can’t.

One of my concerns was how do I get this thing safely to and fro. I carry my Powerbook inside my bag in a MacCase sleeve, which I love to death. When the MBPs were first released last year, I was kind of dreading having to buy a new case to account for the slightly longer length of the MBP. I was hoping the extra half inch of room in my PB case might save me the trouble, and indeed it has. The MBP fits in the case with about a quarter inch to spare. Maybe not as well protected as the PB, but it will do. The only thing that’s disappointing for any true Apple fan is that the Apple doesn’t sit quite centered in the window, but it’s close enough that there can be no mistake about what’s inside.

Speaking of size comparisons, here are the two side-by-side, the MBP on top:

A lot of the stuff I’m discovering is old news to anyone with an older MBP, so I’ll try to keep that to a minimum, but I still have a lot of things to play with that are new to me, like Front Row and its cute little remote, and Intel in general. Stupidest thing I did when packing for this summer: not considering that I would be wanting to install Windows on this machine and bringing along one of my existing Windows disks. I really want to try out Parallels, but I don’t feel like purchasing a new version of Windows, and I’ve got one or two XP codes I don’t even use anymore. Perhaps I can have one of those disks sent up to me with my mail. I also have my VPC disk image on the PB, I’ll have to research if something can be done with that. I’m not sure how much I’d really use it, but as a stage manager preparedness is key, and once in a blue moon it helps to be able to do something in Windows. I’d also like to try some gaming.

Well those are my thoughts so far, I’m sure I will be discovering lots of things as I actually start to use it.


  1. I’ve sold 3 MacBooks Pro since the display was too grainy. I’m asking you again, is the display completely crisp? Have you ever seen the last model with the grainy effect on it?

    Thanks in advance


    Comment by Anonymous — June 6, 2007 @ 12:30 pm

  2. Nice- can you let me know about two things:

    1) Does it get hot/warm? I have the first generation MBP and it gets pretty hot.

    2) How is the battery life? Are you getting 3-4 hours or less?


    Comment by Anonymous — June 6, 2007 @ 12:34 pm

  3. To answer the question about the grain: this has been a huge issue for me since I first heard about it last year. I have examined every 15″ MBP I’ve ever seen, and every one up to this point has had horrible grain. This new screen DOES NOT HAVE IT. It’s as clear as any other Mac screen I’ve seen. I’m very pleased.


    Comment by KP — June 6, 2007 @ 12:45 pm

  4. 1. Heat – so far it actually seems cooler than my Powerbook, but I haven’t really used it in enough situations to say for sure. Even the area right around the power plug is only slightly warm, not burning like I’m used to.

    2 – Coming from the PB with a battery life of 7 minutes, I’m not used to staying unplugged. I will try to run it down tonight when I get home.


    Comment by KP — June 6, 2007 @ 12:52 pm

  5. Battery Life:
    I used the computer for about an hour at rehearsal off the battery, sitting around, checking e-mail, moving large files off a CD, and running some Quicktime movies. Then when I got home I did another two-and-a-half hours which consisted of watching TV for an hour or so with my EyeTV, transferring files, installing software and web browsing. Screen brightness was around 75%, and the keyboard lights were on for a good deal of it, too. Wi-fi was in use the whole time.

    Eventually I had to plug it in because I was converting a VPC disk image to Parallels and didn’t want anything to interrupt the process. The battery meter was saying I had 12 minutes left, but I hadn’t yet gotten any low battery warnings.

    Not entirely scientific, but I would say battery life is definitely in excess of 3.5 hrs, and this is just the first charge.


    Comment by KP — June 6, 2007 @ 11:06 pm

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